An Overview of the Personal Injury Claims Process in Georgia
While they may seem similar, every state has different laws and legal processes for criminal and civil cases. That includes cases related to personal injury accidents, such as auto accidents, workplace injuries, medical malpractice, or premises liability claims. If you have been injured in an accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim, there are a few things you should know about the process before getting started. Here is an overview of the personal injury claims process in Georgia.
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, you will want to discuss your case and options with a personal injury attorney first. Your attorney will offer guidance, and will work with you throughout the process, which may resemble the following steps:
1. Get Medical Attention
After any sort of accident or injury, your first step is getting medical attention. While this may seem obvious, this is an important step in the personal injury claims process. The reason is that during a personal injury lawsuit, it is your responsibility to prove your injuries. This will include detailed medical records, insurance claims, billing statements, and any communication between you and your healthcare providers. As you seek or continue treatment, remember this and keep detailed and clear records.
2. Find an Attorney
Attempting to file a personal injury lawsuit on your own could hinder your chances for success. A personal injury attorney has legal knowledge and resources that can help you win your case. It is important to find an attorney who practices in your state, and preferably in your local area. Find an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases like yours, and who has a reputation for successful cases. Finding an attorney who you feel comfortable with will go a long way toward building a relationship and seeing your case through. Personal injury cases can take time!
3. Inform Your Insurance Provider
After any sort of accident, you will want to inform your insurance provider about what happened, and what sort of losses you suffered – physical injuries, property damage, etc. Georgia is a “fault state”, which means that the person who is at fault for an accident, along with his or her insurance company, are responsible for medical expenses, property damages, etc. of the person injured.
You should note that Georgia is also considered a “comparative fault” state, meaning that each party in an accident is assigned a level of fault. If you, the plaintiff, are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, you may not be able to recover damages in a personal injury claim. Before agreeing to any fault or settlement claims by insurance companies, make sure you talk to your attorney first.
4. Negotiating a Settlement
In most personal injury cases, one party will attempt to negotiate a settlement before the case can be taken to trial. Many cases can be settled outside of court with a favorable outcome for you, the plaintiff. If you and your attorney enter negotiations, remember that the other side is likely to play “hardball” and refuse to budge on their offer. It is important that you and your attorney discuss your expectations and what is likely to happen before you negotiate.
5. Taking the Case to Trial
Once you have moved through these steps, if your case cannot be negotiated and settled outside of court, then your personal injury lawsuit can be formally filed. Copies of the complaint will then be served to the other party (defendant), who will then have time to hire an attorney and build their defense case. Once this is completed, here is a brief overview of what you can expect as your case moves forward:
- Discovery: Discovery is part of the lawsuit process that involves both parties exchanging information. During this phase, witnesses are identified and deposed, evidence will be reviewed, and documents will be exchanged. It is important to keep copies of all documents related to your accident, including any documents prepared or exchanged between insurance companies, during negotiations, or during your medical treatment.
- Motions: Motions are legal documents filed by attorneys throughout the lawsuit process. Motions generally request the judge to rule on certain elements of the case. Once discover is completed and all motions have been ruled upon, the case will officially go to trial.
- Trial: During the trial itself, both parties will have the opportunity to present their case. Each party will present evidence, question witnesses, and present their story to a judge and jury. Remember, as the plaintiff, you have the burden of proving your case. That means that it is your responsibility to prove that the other party’s negligence caused you harm, and that said harm resulted in your losses. Once both sides have presented their case, the jury will make their decision and the judge will order final rulings.
- Appeal: After a trial, if either party is unsatisfied with the court’s ruling, he or she has the option of filing an appeal. Appeals are most commonly granted when there are procedural violations or errors during the trial.
How Long does a Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
At The Dixon Firm, one of the most common questions we are asked about the personal injury lawsuit process is “how long does it take?” This is a difficult question to answer. Every case is different, and nuances in each case impact the process and all the twists and turns along the way.
If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, or have questions about the process, contact our office to speak with one of our Atlanta personal injury attorneys who can give you more information based on the facts of your case.